Keith Hunt - LAYING ON OF THE HANDS? Restitution of All Things


LAYING ON OF THE HANDS?

                               
    The laying on of hands is found in both Old and New
      Testament. It was used in different ways and in
        different ceremonies. It is so important to
          God that He made it one of the founda-
             tion  doctrines  of the Church of
                           God.

                                    
     It may surprise some that the laying on of hands - one
person placing his hands on the body of another - is deemed by
God important enough  that He made it one of the foundational 
doctrines of the New Testament Church.  
     Notice  what   the book of Hebrews records:  "Go on unto
perfection; not laying again the FOUNDATION of repentance from  
dead works, and of faith towards God, of the doctrine of
baptisms, and of  laying  on  of  hands, and of resurrection of
the dead, and of eternal judgment" ( Heb.6:1, 2  KJV throughout,
emphasis mine). The ceremony of the laying on of hands is here
put alongside such vital and basic doctrines as: repentance, 
faith, baptisms, resurrection, and eternal judgment. No small
doctrines, but essential truths to the  Christian community. The
practice of "laying on of hands"  goes back to the earliest of
times, it is truly an ancient and honored ceremony.


FIRST RECORDED CEREMONY
  
                                    
     The first account the Bible gives us of a special ceremony
where one person lays hands on another person within the contexts
of a divine purpose, is in the life of Abraham as recorded in 
Genesis chapter twenty four.
     Abraham  was by  now an old  man, and  he thought it was 
time that his son Isaac should have a  wife. He commissioned his
oldest servant  that ruled over he had to go to  his a ancestral 
line of kinsmen   and   among   them find  Isaac a wife.  Notice
verse two:  "And Abraham  said unto his eldest servant of his
house put I pray you, your hand UNDER MY THIGH." The servant was
to then swear by the Lord what Abraham wanted him to do (verse 3,
4).
     Verse 9 says, "And the servant PUT HIS HAND UNDER THE THIGH
of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning the matter." 
     Here was the laying on of hands for a divine purpose.


JOSEPH'S SONS ARE BLESSED                                    
     From the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the laying on of
hands was used in  ceremonies  which  carried with it a specific
meaning. An illustration is found in Genesis 48.
     Joseph was told that his father Jacob was very sick.  So, 
Joseph came to see him and brought his two sons with him -
Manasseh and Ephraim.
     After telling Joseph about the promise of blessing God had
given him (verse 4), Jacob said that Joseph's sons would become
his sons, just as Reuben and Simeon were his sons (verse 5). As  
far as Jacob was concerned, together with God' s approval
these two sons of Joseph were now legal  sons of Jacob and his
heirs of the blessings God had promised him. All this  would  
become more specific with the ceremony of the laying  on of
hands on these two individuals - Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen.
48:13-16).
     Notice that Jacob DELIBERATELY crossed his hands during the
ceremony  so that Ephraim,  the younger brother received the
greater blessing, and Manasseh the older brother, received a
lesser blessing.
     The laying on of hands here again illustrates a special 
ceremony within the context of a divine purpose.


MORE OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES


     In  all  examples  of  the   ceremony  of  laying  on  
of hands by individuals upon individuals we see it is for the
reason of setting someone apart for a SPECIAL PURPOSE and/or
BLESSING.
     When God chose the tribe of Levi  for the service of
priesthood in ancient Israel , they were set apart for holy
duties by the ceremony of the laying on of hands. Only a tribe so
consecrated by this important ceremony could officiate in the
temple or tabernacle of God.
    The event is recorded in Numbers 8: 5-11.  First, the
Levites were cleansed  and  purified (verses 6, 7),an offering
was made (verse 8) then individuals representing the tribes of
Israel, "shall put their hands  upon  the  Levites: And Aaron
shall offer the Levites before the Lord for an offering of the
children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the
Lord" (verses 10, 11).
     And verse 14:  "Thus shalt thou separate the Levites
from among the children of Israel:  and the Levites shall be
mine" said God.

     Joshua was selected to serve the people of Israel after
Moses (Num. 27:15-23). 
     God told Moses to lay hands on Joshua to set him apart  
for service as leader of the people(verse 18).  And Moses did so:

".....he laid his hands upon him, and gave him charge, as the
Lord commanded by the hand of Moses" (verses 22, 23).
     The laying on of hands ceremony is used in setting apart
individuals God has called to serve His people.  We shall see
that this holds true in the New Testament also.

     Spiritual gifts were bestowed in Old Testament times as
well as New Testament times, by the laying on of hands.  In the
case of Joshua it is written:  "And Joshua the son of Nun
was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands  
upon him" (Deut. 34: 9).


LAYING ON OF HANDS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

                                           
     As we have seen some instances of this foundational 
doctrine of the laying on of hands is used to confer a
BLESSING.  Such is the case in the New  Testament of the 
blessing of  LITTLE CHILDREN (Mat.19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16).
     The families that followed Jesus knew of the value of the
blessing of children.  
     Jesus blessed children brought to Him, and He used the
ceremony of the laying on of hands  (Mat.19:13, 15). Jesus came 
and lived the perfect life.  He set us an example in every way.
The elders of the church of God should also bless the little
children brought to them with the ceremony of the laying on of
hands and pray.

     One of the signs Jesus said would follow His servants  would

be the GIFT  OF HEALING, a gift often granted through the laying 
on of hands (Mark 16:17, 18; James 5:14, 15).  Jesus often laid
hands upon the  sick in  healing  them, but not every time, so we
need to remember that when it comes to healing God can and often
does grant healing  WITHOUT  the  laying  on  of  hands.  Read  
the   wonderful understanding  of  faith  exhibited  by  the  
centurion in Matthew 8:5-13.  He knew Jesus had the authority to
heal  his servant without actually  laying  hands  on  him. 
Certainly someone can contact via phone or  letter, the servants
of God and ask they pray for them to be  healed and God can grant
their petition, without the laying on of hands.


     In  writing to Timothy, Paul emphasized he use the
spiritual gift that  was  in   him.  The  Amplified  Bible
puts  it this way:  "Do not neglect the gift which is in you, 
(that special  inward endowment) which   was   directly  
imparted   to   you   (by   the  Holy   Spirit)  by prophetic  
utterance  when the elders  laid  their  hands  upon  you, at
your ordination"  (1 Tim. 4:14).

     Timothy  was given some special  spiritual  gift by the
Holy Spirit through  the  laying  on  of  hands  by  the elders. 
If this was at Timothy's  ordination to the ministry or at some
other time,  is not clear,  nor does the context tell us. The
compilers of the Amplified Bible added the words "at your
ordination."
     The  fact remains, a special gift was bestowed on Timothy
and the laying on of hands was involved.

     Sometimes  when  certain ministers of the Lord are called
to do a certain task WITHIN their ministerial  work, other
ministers will  be led  by  the Spirit to set them apart for
that specific job and lay hands on them and pray. This example is
recorded in Acts 13:1-3.

     In  the  New  Testament, deacons were set apart for
handling the physical administrative details of the church by the
laying on of hands (Acts 6:1-6).

     The laying on of hands ceremony for ordination to eldership
and deaconship is not to be taken  lightly, or done in haste. 
Paul warned Timothy to take it very seriously:  "Lay hands
suddenly on no man"  (1 Tim.5:22). In the Revised Standard
Version this phrase is translated:   "Do not be hasty in the
laying on of hands." We see from  Acts  14:23 that the laying on
of hands for ordination should be accompanied with prayer and
fasting.

     
LAYING ON OF HANDS IN NEW TESTAMENT BAPTISM                      

           
   
     I have left this last example of the New Testament for the
end of this article. It is the one aspect of the foundational 
doctrine that  many  do not practice, nor see the necessity to
do so. Is the  laying  on  of  hands  "mandatory" and a part
of the overall rite of  water baptism?
     You  will  notice  in  Hebrews  6  verse 2, the  laying on 
of hands comes after the  mention  of  water  baptism.  In this
section of scripture I believe it is significant when we 
consider the imperative examples found in the book of Acts.

     Turn to chapter 8. The people of the Church, except the
apostles, were  scattered  abroad and went everywhere preaching
the word (the preaching  of the word is not just for the
ministers of the church).
     Philip  went  down  to Samaria and preached Christ 
(verses 4 - 6).  Many believed Philip's preaching about the
Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ,  and were BAPTIZED (verse
12). The apostles on hearing this good news from Samaria
sent Peter and John to them.  When  these two apostles
came they found that although  many had been baptized
in the name of Jesus, they had not received the Holy Spirit
(verses 14 -16).

     Now notice verse 17, "Then LAID THEY THEIR HANDS ON THEM,
and they received the Holy Spirit." Turn  to Acts chapter 9.  
Saul  or  Paul is struck blind by Jesus and is  brought  to
Damascus where he is for three days without food or water. God
sends a disciple by the name of Ananias to Paul. He was sent to
restore sight to Saul, to pass on the gift of the Holy Spirit to
him, and to baptize him (verses 10 - 18).

     I especially want you to notice verse 17. "And Ananias  
went  his  way, and  entered  into the house; and PUTTING  
HIS HANDS ON HIM said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that  
appeared  unto  thee in the way as thou comest, hath sent me,
that  thou  mightest receive thy sight, and be FILLED WITH THE
HOLY SPIRIT"  (emphasis mine).
     The great apostle Paul  started his Christian life with the 
laying  on  of  hands  and baptism.  I  have commented in
detail  in my article on  WATER   BAPTISM as to why in this
instant the laying on of hands came   BEFORE   baptism,   which 
is  not the usual case (the reader is asked to request my study
paper on water baptism if they do not have it). We  see  again 
the  ceremony  of  laying  on  of  hands  in connection  with 
baptism.

     Still a third example is found in Acts 19.  Paul  came to
Ephesus and  found  certain   disciples   who   were baptized
only with John's baptism   -  John the baptist. They had not even
heard that there was such a thing as the Holy Spirit.  Paul 
explained the truth to them and  they  were  baptized in the name
of Jesus (verses 1-5). Now  we come  to verse 6, "And when
Paul  had  LAID  HANDS  UPON  THEM,  the Holy Spirit came on
them."      

     Some may  argue  that  on  the  day of Pentecost when
3,000 were baptized, nothing is said about the laying on of
hands.  My answer to that case is that silence does not prove it
was not carried out.  The  doctrine of  the  laying  on  of 
hands  was a well  know practice from the time of  Abraham, and
the  apostles, it  would  seem automatically  used the laying on
of hands for ordaining the men of Acts 6  to  the  office  of
deacon.  Then on the other hand  the out pouring of the
Spirit on the day of Pentecost was a special  once in all 
history occurrence, and God does make exceptions to the norm at
times and  when  He deems fit,  after all  He is God and can do
with His Spirit, what, where, and when, as He chooses.
     My contention is:  God has through the three examples given
above, a BASIC plan and outline to follow for all who desire His
salvation, repentance, faith in Jesus'  sacrifice for sins, 
baptism in the name of  Jesus  for the remission of sins, laying
on of hands, the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
     There  may be some exceptions now and then by God to that
basic 4 steps, but the overwhelming scriptural evidence builds
those foundational steps.


     Is it not true that it is "better to be safe than
sorry"? Yes indeed!   Better to do something  that  Jesus  upon 
His  return  tells  us  we did  not  have to do, than NOT  DO 
SOMETHING  Jesus tells us when we see Him,  that we SHOULD HAVE
DONE.  I  personally  will  advise  all  who  are  baptizing 
to  have  the  ceremony of the laying on of hands for those
baptized.


     The   laying   on  of hands may seem unimportant to us.  We
may say, surely  God  can  do all  things without such a
ceremony, and yes He can,   if  He desires to.  But it is not
left to us to decide HOW we will  worship  God  or serve Him. 
The Eternal  says in  Isaiah 55: 8, 9,  "For my  thoughts  are
not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.  For as the
heavens are higher than the earth,  so are my ways higher than
your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."


     We  may not always understand the ways of the Lord, they may
even seem somewhat "strange" to our human carnal mind, but we
need to be of the mind Jesus was and always be willing to say, 
"not my will but your will be done."

     Our  heavenly  Father  has seen fit to make the "laying on
of hands" one of the FOUNDATIONAL DOCTRINES.   Amen - so be it!    

Written February 1995
by
Keith Hunt

 
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